Clapton, Santana lead first weekend of Jazz Fest

Jumping into Jazz Fest

The 45th annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival , running Friday-Sunday and May 1-4 at the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, boasts a blockbuster lineup of national and local talent.

The first Jazz Fest weekend alone features classic-rock star Santana, pioneering rap group Public Enemy, jam-band Phish, neo-soul singer Robin Thicke, former Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant with his new band the Sensational Space Shifters, Plant’s British rock star peer Eric Clapton, and enduring funk and R&B favorite Charlie Wilson.

Weekend two of Jazz Fest brings the festival’s second appearance by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, singing star and “The Voice” judge Christina Aguilera, pop favorites Foster the People, the second Jazz Fest performance by Canada’s super-exuberant musical collective Arcade Fire, and another classic-rock star, former Creedence Clearwater Revival frontman John Fogerty.

In addition to the national acts who will perform on the festival’s Acura and Samsung Galaxy stages, hundreds of New Orleans artists fill Jazz Fest. That deep list contains artists from New Orleans’ 1950s and ’60s glory years of rhythm-and-blues, including the Dixie Cups, Allen Toussaint, Irma Thomas and Walter “Wolfman” Washington as well as later arrivals to the city’s music scene such as Hurray for the Riff Raff, Anders Osborne and Royal Teeth.

For the second consecutive year, the internationally touring New Orleans artist Troy “Trombone Shorty” Andrews and his band, Orleans Avenue, will be Jazz Fest’s final day closing act at the Acura Stage, the spot the Neville Brothers occupied for decades.

Louisiana Heritage Fair

Taking place concurrently with Jazz Fest at the Fair Grounds, the Louisiana Heritage Fair features music on multiple smaller stages, Louisiana cuisine in two extensive food areas and the works of artists and craftspeople from the Gulf Coast region and world showing, demonstrating and selling their work.

Tickets

Single-day tickets for Jazz Fest are $55. The gate price ticket is $70. Children’s tickets (ages 2-10) are $5 and available at the gate only. General admission Jazz Fest tickets are subject to service fees and handling charges.

Single-day tickets to Jazz Fest are on sale for each weekend, valid for a single day’s attendance. Tickets are available at www.nojazzfest.com and www.ticketmaster.com, at all Ticketmaster outlets or by calling (800) 745-3000.

Tickets also are on sale at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome box office at Gate A at Poydras Street, on the Superdome’s ground level. Free parking is available in the Superdome’s garage 6 on Sugar Bowl Drive. Box office hours are 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday; 9 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday; and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Getting there

Gray Line Tours operates continuous Jazz Fest Express shuttles to the Fair Grounds from 10:30 a.m. until festival closing time. Departure points are the Steamboat Natchez Dock at Toulouse Street; Sheraton Hotel at 500 Canal St.; and City Park near Marconi Drive and Harrison Avenue.

Round-trip shuttles are $18 per day from the Steamboat Natchez Dock and Sheraton Hotel, and $15 per day from City Park. Each Jazz Fest Express ticket is valid for one round-trip bus trip daily with no re-entry. Tickets are available from Gray Line Tours at www.graylineneworleans.com. For information, call (504) 569-1401 or (800) 535-7786.

Weekend picks

Santana

5:10 p.m. Friday

Acura Stage

Fiery electric guitar maestro Carlos Santana can count 1969’s Woodstock Music & Art Fair and previous Jazz Fests in New Orleans among his many festival appearances throughout the past 45 years.

Santana’s appearance in the music documentary “Woodstock” boosted an already in-flight career that flourishes to this day. He’ll release his latest album, “Corazón,” May 6. His first Latin album, “Corazón” is another of the guitarist’s all-star collaborations. Guest artists include Ziggy Marley, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Juanes, Gloria Estefan, ChocQuibTown, Miguel, Lila Downs and Wayne Shorter.

After emerging in the late 1960s from the vibrant San Francisco music scene, Santana sold 100 million records, performed for 100 million people worldwide and won 10 Grammy Awards. In December, he was among the Kennedy Center’s 2013 honorees, an honor that followed his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 and Billboard Latin Music Awards Lifetime Achievement honor in 2009.

The Avett Brothers

5:30 p.m. Friday

Samsung Galaxy Stage

North Carolina’s Avett Brothers say they make honest music based on chords and real voices that sing real melodies. The group’s 2014 festival appearances include Jazz Fest in New Orleans, Lollapalooza in Chicago and the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Manchester, Tenn.

The Avett Brothers have roots in their region’s traditional folk and bluegrass music. But before Scott and Seth Avett formed the Avett Brothers, they performed in the Greenville, N.C.-based ’90s rock band Nemo. The weekly acoustic sessions they played on the side evolved into the Avett Brothers band.

A 2011 Grammy Awards appearance with Bob Dylan and Mumford & Sons exposed the Avett Brothers to millions of potential fans. The group’s 2012 album, “The Carpenter,” topped its predecessor’s Top 20 success, reaching No. 4 on Billboard’s all-genre Top 200 albums chart and earning a Grammy nomination.

Phish

4 p.m. Saturday

Acura Stage

By the late 1980s, Phish was in line to inherit the Grateful Dead’s jam-band crown. Embracing a freewheeling approach on stage, the group straddled the musical realms of rock, jazz, bluegrass, country and pop. By the late 1990s, Phish, featuring singer-guitarist Trey Anastasio and keyboardist Page McConnell, was among the nation’s top in-concert acts.

The band broke up in 2004 but reunited in 2009, beginning with three sold-out shows at Virginia’s Hampton Coliseum. Phish continued performing at festivals such as the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Outside Lands and Bonnaroo as well as their own Phish-sponsored events. While Phish is in New Orleans for Jazz Fest, band member McConnell also will perform Friday and Saturday with the Meter Men, which features three original members of New Orleans’ great funk band the Meters — drummer Zigaboo Modeliste, guitarist Leo Nocentelli and bassist George Porter Jr.

Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters

5:30 p.m. Saturday

Samsung Galaxy Stage

Robert Plant, the former Led Zeppelin frontman, returns to the Jazz Fest with his latest post-Zeppelin project, the Sensational Space Shifters.

Unlike Plant’s largely retired Zeppelin bandmate, guitarist Jimmy Page, he’s kept up his musical activities since Zeppelin’s 1980 end. Plant released solo albums as well as group efforts with his all-star Band of Joy; bluegrass star Alison Krauss (2007’s massively popular, Grammy-winning “Raising Sand”); and Strange Sensation (the Grammy-nominated “Dreamland” and “Mighty Rearranger” albums).

A singer whose list of inspirations include Southside Chicago electric blues, West African griot mantras, southwest Louisiana dance halls and Texas two-step, Plant contributed to 2007’s Fats Domino tribute album “Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino.” No stranger to New Orleans, he’s visited the city for both work and pleasure. This year will see his third Jazz Fest show.

Robin Thicke

5:25 p.m. Saturday

Congo Square Stage

Before blue-eyed neo-soul singer Robin Thicke became famous with the hits “Blurred Lines,” “Lost Without U” and “Sex Therapy,” the Los Angeles native worked behind the scenes. Thicke wrote and produced songs for Brandy, Color Me Badd and Brian McKnight. By 21, he’d contributed to more than 20 gold and platinum albums by Michael Jackson, Marc Anthony, Christina Aguilera, Pink and others. More recently, the news about Thicke, 37, has been about his February split from actress wife Paula Patton.



Eric Clapton

5:25 p.m. Sunday

Acura Stage

Despite being acclaimed since the 1960s for his guitar prowess, British rock star Eric Clapton sustained his decades of popularity mostly through a rich discography of songs featuring his lead vocals. That golden list features Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love,” Derek and the Dominos’ “Layla” and “Wonderful Tonight” and solo hits “I Shot the Sheriff,” “Tears in Heaven” and “Change the World.”

Clapton’s previous New Orleans appearances include a three-night stand at the House of Blues in 1994, a 1995 show at the Superdome and his 2012 appearance at the New Orleans Arena. After being on Jazz Fest’s artist wish list for decades, he makes his festival debut this year.

Since 2013, Clapton’s band has featured Paul Carrack, the soulful British singer-organist known for his solo hits and his years with Squeeze and Mike + The Mechanics.

Vampire Weekend

5:20 p.m. Sunday

Samsung Galaxy Stage

A New York City band influenced by Afro-pop and indie-rock, Vampire Weekend formed while the group’s members were students at Columbia University. In 2007, a breakthrough year for the band, Vampire Weekend toured extensively, performed at the CMJ Music Marathon and signed with XL Records.

Vampire Weekend’s self-titled album debut, released in 2008, reached the Top 20 in the U.S. and U.K. The group’s 2013 album, “Modern Vampires of the City,” debuted at No. 1 and won a Grammy Award in January for best alternative music album.